The invitation to my 30th High School reunion is haunting me. It seems impossible. Thirty years?
At my 10th High School reunion, JL., one of the Popular Girls in my suburban High School’s impenetrable social hierarchy, wondered aloud in the Ladies Room why Andy H., one of the popular boys, hadn’t decided to come.
Andy was my neighbor in Greenwich Village. I saw him all the time. “Oh,” I said. “It’s his birthday, and his girlfriend is throwing him a party.”
“How would someone like you know where someone like he is?” was J’s oh, so, High School reply.
I laughed out loud. Wow, I thought, some people never really leave High School.
Now, impossibly, my thirtieth reunion looms. It’s as hard to believe as my own kids applying to High School, my neck starting to crepe, and NSYNC reuniting at the VMA’s. But unlike those other inevitabilities, I don’t have to go to my High School Reunion, and I’m not sure that I will. Why? Because ten years ago, my group of High School friends, one of whom had been my best friend since we were eight, dumped me without explanation.
It wasn’t a dramatic blow up. This was a slow series of un-returned phone calls, of slights both intended and not – on all sides, until I finally said to my lifelong best friend “We need to talk about this.” And, after nearly thirty years of friendship, she didn’t want to talk. Ever again.
For the first year or maybe even two, I called every few months and left a simple message: Just wanted you to know I was thinking of you. She never called back. One of the other women, after a phone call where she said, memorably, “You’re a negative person, and you want to bring everyone else down with you.” and unforgivably, “Your kids deserve a better mother,” wrote me a note saying “We both said things we regret. “ I didn’t answer.
But when she lost her father a few years later, I went to the funeral – we’d all grown up together, after all. I never heard from her again.
One of the husbands invited me to a surprise birthday party. After much agonizing, I went. She didn’t take it as a pleasant surprise. But when her father died, again I went. “It was surreal to see you there.” said the note that came, not quite thanking me for being there. The third woman in our foursome just followed suit. I haven’t seen or spoken to her in eight years,
And that’s it. After friendships that included seeing each other through first crushes, first kisses, first marriages, babies and brises and divorces – nothing.
Of course I’m to blame, too. I wasn’t the best friend I could have been. I am, in fact, kind of a negative person sometimes. Oftentimes. Though I’m harder on myself than I am on anyone else. I didn’t go the extra mile. I could be petty and jealous. Worst, I called my oldest friend on things – thinking I was being helpful – making her face the tough issues- when in fact, all she wanted was to gloss over them and move on. Why did I think I knew better how she should cope with her life than she did? I didn’t.
Nearly 10 years later, I still think of her all the time. Not daily, but close. And I don’t know that I want to see her again, that I can, at a party, where I’m supposed to be happy and excited and see?, my life turned out great and all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. (We read Candide in High School French class.)
My husband keeps telling me I’m being ridiculous – they are only three of the many people who will likely be there. I’m not even sure they will be there, and aren’t there other people I’d like to see? Well of course there are. My other reunions have been a blast. But still, I’m wary.
What if I break down? What if I’m overtly slighted? What if I’m not? And they all pretend that everything is perfectly fine, like nothing ever happened? Like one of them didn’t move and not send me a forwarding address? Didn’t have a baby, and neglect to tell me? Didn’t imply that I was bad mother to my then toddler twins?
Unlike a divorce, which has pretty clear parameters for dissolution, when friendships break, you’re on your own. No papers to sign. No lawyers to pay. No support groups, no friends trying to fix you up, no getting back in the saddle. I’m not sure how it’s going to feel, and if I want to feel it.
At my own 40th birthday party, a mutual High School friend, with whom I still speak a few times a year, said “Wow, you had so many friends here, and they said such nice things about you!’ He sounded genuinely surprised.
Maybe I don’t want to reunite with people who are surprised I have friends. Maybe, having gone thirty years without seeing all those High School friends I remember fondly, I can survive without seeing them again. Or maybe, I should go, and not care anymore about 10 year old breaks, and old friends long gone.
Maybe it’s time to really leave high school. But whether that means going to the reunion or not, I’m just not sure.